Archer Components’ D1x Trail Shifting System: Getting Rolling – by Guitar Ted
The ‘Gear Wars’ have driven some of us riders nuts over the past decades. Every time another cog gets added to that cassette, it means more in dollars and changes than it might seem on the surface. New derailleurs, shifters, and nothing is upgradeable from the past. What if you could have a shifter system that could handle any derailleur, any number of cogs, (some not even available yet), and was also backward compatible? Yes. A shifter system that would work with even a 7 or 8 speed cassette. Now if I told you that it was also electronic, would I have your attention? Well, Archer Components got my attention when I heard about this, so we got them to send us a D1x Trail System to check out.
What It Is: The D1x is Archer Components mountain bike/flat bar set up. There is a drop bar compatible version in the works, but Archer wanted us to check out the Trail version so we could become acquainted with just how well it works and how versatile the system is.
You get everything you need to make your bike into an electronically shifted rig in the rear. (No front system is in existence yet, but we’ve heard people have hacked a second D1x to do front shifting as well) The box has a shifter unit, which is a black, rectangular box, a remote shifter, batteries, and a charger. A “matchmaker” style clamp also comes with the unit to allow you to mount the remote triggers, or you can use existing mounts on some SRAM brake levers.
The final key to making this work is an app for a smart phone, either Android or iOS is supported, which programs your shifter box and allows you to make adjustments to the auto shut off and shift points. The app pairs up via Bluetooth to the unit, then you can control it from the phone and set it up for anything from 7 speeds to 12 speeds, with the ability to adjust incrementally for each cog.
This means that any cassette can be utilized with the Archer Components D1x unit. You can even compensate for a few worn cogs in a cassette, meaning that the old cassette you have might gain a little extra life. Not a small thing in these times of hard to get replacement parts. Archer even claims this can be programmed to work with a theoretical 20 speed system! So, don’t fear the future if you have an Archer Components D1x.
The shifter ‘box’ attaches to your bike on a seat stay or, most likely, a chain stay, via two adjustable straps which anchor to the box itself. This controller also pulls a short bit of rear cable to actuate your current or future rear derailleur. Most cases will see about 4 inches of housing and cable, which shouldn’t be any trouble to keep relatively clean and smooth running. The shifter unit is actuated by a two button remote which sits on a perch on your handle bar for flat bar, MTB standard mount dimension type bars.
Each unit has batteries. The batteries are rechargeable and the shifter box has two while the remote uses one. Batteries are not rechargeable while on the bike. The charger provided is a ‘smart’ charger which will not over-charge the batteries. I had all three batteries charged up in about 90 minutes upon getting the system set up. Battery life is said to be 60 hours.
Here is a short list of the features of the Archer Components D1x, which they listed in a press release:
● Compatible with ANY rear derailleur
● Lasts up to 60 hours ride time
● Sealed electronics: water-resistant inside and out
● SRAM MatchMaker® compatible
● Weight: 235g (Only a handful of grams heavier than the high-end groups!)
● Designed, tested and built in Santa Cruz, California
The system also features a “Get Me Home Gear” in case you do exceed the 60 hour ride time before recharging the batteries. You choose the gear in the set up and then the D1x would default to that gear choice just before the system runs out of juice. Another feature of the D1x is that you can choose what happens if you press a remote button for a ‘long’ period, which can allow you to shift up to 5 gears at once. This is also programmable in the app.
First Impressions: Upon getting the Archer Components D1x I opened the box and found all the necessary bits of hardware neatly packaged along with an instructional booklet to help with installation and set up. You will also be directed to watch an Archer Components You Tube video to help with installation choices. (I highly recommend watching this) This all helped me to mount the system to an older 29″er I have had since 2006. By the way, I weighed everything I needed and came up with 249 grams, a bit more than the claimed 235 grams.
I mounted the shifter to the chain stay. I will say that you should be aware of clearances when you choose a spot to mount the controller box. It will protrude inwards a bit, so clearances for the chain as it shifts up and down the cassette, clearances for spokes, and perhaps tires in some instances, will need to be taken into careful consideration here. I utilized the old chain stay protector on this bike as a way to create more friction to keep the unit in place as well. The straps were easy to install and tighten down. I clipped mine back, but not flush, as I may want to switch this out to a carbon bike at some point that may have beefier stays than this steel frame does.
The remote controller (‘shifter’ in my mind) was mounted using the provided perch on the recently released Milhouse Bar from Whisky Parts Co. Then it was time to do the set up using the Archer Components app on my iPhone 8. The free app downloaded with no issues, and I was able to get started.
Here’s where I had an issue. Between having to toggle back and forth between written and You Tubed content, I ran across a known issue with the Archer app and iOS systems where the app locks up and you have to back out of it and restart the set up to ‘clear’ the issues. Of course, I wasn’t aware of this and after multiple attempts to set up the system (about two hours worth of trying) I ended up contacting Archer’s support via e-mail. There I was directed as to what to do, which cleared up everything and made me successful in setting up the D1x. This ended well, but took a rather circuitous route to get there, which for an end user would have to be seen as less than good to go through. Hopefully Archer Components can streamline that set up procedure in the future to make the user interface a more enjoyable process.
Okay, so with the technical hurdles now cleared, I was able to set this up with a 10 speed cassette, a 10 speed Shimano DynSys rear derailleur, and all that being well worn, I was also able to dial in the shifting to be as crisp as new. It actually is pretty easy to dial in shifting with incremental changes to the derailleur movement at your command via the app. The micro-adjust for gear shifts is apparently even available while riding, so you could ‘fine tune’ the system during a ride if need be. I haven’t looked into that aspect of the D1x yet, but I will for the next update. Now with that I was able to test ride the system.
Using the D1x is simple. To start, you depress the button on the side of the shifter box for about a second. The LED indicator will turn green, and then you depress either button on the remote until the LED flashes and you are good to go. Shifts are what you would expect from a well tuned cable operated system. Once you stop, a user pre-selected amount of time passes before the unit shuts off. This can be as little as five minutes or as long as ‘never’ with 15 and 30 minute intervals being the other choices. Once the shifter powers down, you would have to go through the start procedure again. I selected 30 minutes as my ‘power down’ option. Note- You can turn off the system at any time by holding the shifter box power button for about two seconds until the red LED flashes.
So Far… The versatile, electronic Archer Components D1x is a great way to make any geared MTB drive train backward compatible or future-proofed for gearing choices. The controller and shifter box mount easily and work well once the set up procedure has been accomplished using the Archer Components app for Android or iOS operated smart phones. Shifting can be incrementally dialed in to account for wear or even slight damage to derailleurs and cogs. The versatility of this system is really quite well thought out.
Where I have an issue is with the set up instructions. It would be very nice for the end user to have complete information in either written or in video form. Having to go to different places to get a complete picture to install and set up this system is rather tedious and, in my opinion, unnecessary. Added to that is the known iOS issue which is not addressed in the FAQ on Archer’s site, which Archer could easily have done. Hopefully a streamlined user interface is in the works. I will say that Archer’s tech support was very helpful and responsive, so customer service is very satisfactory should you have issues.
Otherwise I am enjoying the system’s function while riding on test rides so far. I hope to get in longer rides both on single track and on gravel adventures to see what the D1x is capable of in those situations. The promise of a drop bar compatible system is intriguing and with the capabilities to adapt Archer’s system for any gearing set up and even for drive train wear or damage, this is a great advantage which could prove to be an asset to any adventurer.
Stay tuned for more on this system’s performance in our next update. For more on the Archer Components D1x and other Archer Components products, see their site here: https://archercomponents.com/
NOTE: Archer Components sent over the D1X shifting system to Riding Gravel for test and review at no charge. We are not being paid, nor bribed for this review and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and views throughout.